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have so done, still by our argument their independence. would be secured, and the nature of their testimony be shown to be such as could only result from their separate knowledge of substantial facts.
3. I will add another consideration which seems to me to deserve serious attention: that in several instances the probable truth of a miracle is involved in the coincidence. This is a point which we should distinguish from the general drift of the argument itself. The general drift of our argument is this, than when we see the writers of the Scriptures clearly telling the truth in those cases where we have the means of checking their accounts,--when we see that they are artless, consistent, veracious writers, where we have the opportunity of examining the fact, it is reasonable to believe that they are telling the truth in those cases where we have not the means of checking them, that they are veracious where we have not the means of putting them to proof. But the argument I am now pressing is distinct from this. We are hereby called upon, not merely to assent that Moses and the author of the Book of Joshua, for example; or Isaiah and the author of the Book of Kings; or St. Matthew and St. Luke; speak the truth when they record a miracle, because we know them to speak the truth in many other matters, (though this would be only reasonable where there is no impeachment of their veracity whatever,) but we are called upon to believe a particular miracle, because the very circumstances which attend it furnish the coincidence. I look upon this as a point of very great importance. I do not say that the coincidence in such a case establishes the miracle, but that by establishing the truth of ordinary incidents which involve the miracle, which compass the miracle round about, and which cannot be separated from
the miracle without the utter laceration of the history itself, it goes very near to establish it.
4. On the whole, it is surely a striking fact, and one that could scarcely happen in any continuous fable, however cunningly devised, that annals written by so many hands, embracing so many generations of men, relating to so many different states of society, abounding in supernatural incidents throughout, when brought to this same touchstone of truth, undesignedness, should still not flinch from it; and surely the character of a history, like the character of an individual, when attested by vouchers not of one family, or of one place, or of one date only, but by such as speak to it under various relations, in different situations, and at divers periods of time, can scarcely deceive us.
Perhaps I may add, that the turn which biblical criticism has of late years taken, gives the peculiar argument here employed the advantage of being the word in season: and whilst the articulation of Scripture (so to speak), occupied with its component parts, may possibly cause it to be less regarded than it should be in the mass and as a whole, the effect of this argument is to establish the general truth of Scripture, and with that to content itself; its general truth, I mean, considered with a reference to all practical purposes, which is our chief concern: and thus to pluck the sting out of those critical difficulties, however numerous and however minute, which in themselves have a tendency to excite our suspicion and trouble our peace. Its effect, I say, is to establish the general truth of Scripture, because by this investigation I find occasional tokens of veracity, such as cannot, I think, mislead us, breaking out, as the volume is unrolled, unconnected, unconcerted, unlooked for; tokens which I hail as guarantees for more facts than they actually cover; as spots which truth has singled out
whereon to set her seal, in testimony that the whole document, of which they are a part, is her own act and deed; as pass-words, with which the Providence of God has taken care to furnish his ambassadors, which, though often trifling in themselves, and having no proportion (it may be) to the length or importance of the tidings they accompany, are still enough to prove the bearers to be in the confidence of their Almighty Sovereign, and to be qualified to execute the general commission with which they are charged under his authority.
I shall produce the instances of coincidence without design which I have to offer, in the order of the Books of Scripture that supply them, beginning with the Books of Moses. But before I proceed to individual cases, I will endeavor to develop a principle upon which the Book of Genesis goes as a whole, for this is in itself an example of consistency.
THERE may be those who look upon the Book of Genesis as an epitome of the general history of the world in its early ages, and of the private history of certain families more distinguished than the rest. And so it is, and on a first view it may seem to be little else; but if we consider it more closely, I think we may convince ourselves of the truth of this proposition, that it contains fragments (as it were) of the fabric of a Patriarchal Church, fragments scattered indeed and imperfect, but capable of combination, and when combined, consistent as a whole. Now it is not easy to imagine that any impostor would set himself to compose a book upon a plan so recondite; nor, if he did, would it be possible for him to execute it as
it is executed here. For the incidents which go to prove this proposition are to be picked out from among many others, and on being brought together by ourselves, they are found to agree together as parts of a system, though they are not contemplated as such, or at least are not produced as such, by the author himself.
I am aware that, whilst we are endeavoring to obtain a view of such a Patriarchal Church by the glimpses afforded us in Genesis, there is a danger of our theology becoming visionary:-it is a search upon which the imagination enters with alacrity, and readily breaks its bounds --it has done so in former times and in our own. Still the principle of such investigation is good; for out of God's book, as out of God's world, more may be often concluded than our philosophy at first suspects. The principle is good, for it is sanctioned by our Lord himself, who reproaches the Sadducees with not knowing those Scriptures which they received, because they had not deduced the doctrine of a future state from the words of Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," though the doctrine was there if they would but have sought it out. One consideration, however, we must take along with us in this inquiry, that the Books of Moses are in most cases a very incomplete history of facts -telling something and leaving a great deal untoldabounding in chasms which cannot be filled up-not, therefore, to be lightly esteemed even in their hints, for hints are often all that they offer.
The proofs of this are numberless; but as it is important to my argument that the thing itself should be distinctly borne in mind, I will name a few. Thus if we read the history of Joseph as it is given in the 37th chapter of Genesis, where his brethren first put him into the pit and then sell him to the Ishmaelits, we might conclude
that he was himself quite passive in the whole transaction. Yet when the brothers happen to talk together upon this same subject many years afterwards in Egypt, they say one to another, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear." All these fervent entreaties are sunk in the direct history of the event, and only come out by accident after all. As another instance. The simple account of Jacob's reluctance to part with Benjamin, would lead us to suppose that it was expressed and overcome in a short time, and with no great effort. Yet we incidentally hear from Judah that this family struggle (for such it seems to have been) had occupied as much time as would have sufficed for a journey to Egypt and back. As a third instance. The several blessings which Jacob bestows on his sons have probably a reference to the past as well as to the future fortunes of each. In the case of Reuben, the allusion happens to be a circumstance in his life, with which we are already acquainted; here, therefore, we understand the old man's address; but in the case of several at least of his other sons, where there are probably similar allusions to events in their lives too, which have not, however, been left on record, there is much that is obscure the brevity of the previous narrative not supplying us with the proper key to the blessing. As a fourth instance. The address of Jacob on his death-bed to Reuben, to which I have just referred, shows how deeply Jacob resented the wrong done him by this son many years before, and proves what a breach it must have made between them at the time; yet all that is said of it in the Mosaic history is, "and Israel heard it," not a syllable more. It is needless to multiply instances; all that I wish to impress is this, that in the Book of Genesis a hint is
1 Gen. xlii. 21.
2 xliii. 10.
3 xlix. 4.
4 XXXV. 22.